During each and every conversation that takes place after an OUT IN THE SILENCE screening, we talk about the important role that allies play in any and all struggles for social justice -- the simple idea that it is not the responsibility of oppression's victims alone to stand up, speak out, and take action, i.e. put their lives on the line, to vanquish injustice, but that it is the shared responsibility of all who call a community, a state, a nation home, particularly those who may not have quite as much at-risk, at least in the immediate sense, to help create that better world.
While we've come to know many, many incredible straight allies in the struggle for inclusion, fairness and equality for LGBT people over the past two years as we've traveled the backroads of rural and small town America with the OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign, none have inspired us like Bob Spencer of Tupelo, MS.
Bob is 70+ years old. He was active in the civil rights movement, has been involved in international solidarity work, and is now helping to bring spiritual enlightenment to the world as a Lay Minister with the local Unitarian Universalist Congregation.
As if that wasn't enough, Bob has now made it his personal mission to bring the phrase "liberty and justice for all" to life for LGBT folks too. He's an unstoppable dynamo!
Bob was the inspiration behind and the lead organizer for the recent, and what may have been the first-ever, pro-LGBT equality rally in Tupelo, which also happens to be the home of the notorious anti-gay hate group known as the American Family Association.
Bob worked for months to build a strong coalition of local and regional supporters. He secured a venue and helped to fend off under-handed attempts by the AFA to crush such local support and have the event canceled. And, he made sure that media paid attention and gave the event the visibility it needed to reach a wide audience throughout the region and across the country.
Called Give Hate A Holiday, the Oct. 10 event was wildly successful. Despite the minor interruption of an anonymous bomb threat early in the day, it brought hundreds of people together, helped make new connections and alliances in the community and across the state, and has already spawned the creation of a new group, the Tupelo LGBT Community, to continue to build and carry the movement forward.
Bob Spencer is the perfect example of the difference that one person can make, and how a seemingly small act of personal conviction can be the spark that ignites a fire in the mountain for extraordinary change.
Thanks Bob, for being such an ally!
Yours in Solidarity,
Joe Wilson & Dean Hamer
OUT IN THE SILENCE Campaign